Paul Harsley’s EDS side began their Premier League 2 campaign in the most dramatic style possible with a remarkable 6-5 win over reigning champions Arsenal.
In an action-packed encounter, City fought back from going 3-1 down in the first half to secure what was a stunning win with striker Nabil Touaizi the Blues’ hero as he claimed a superb hat-trick.
Adrian Bernabe, Taylor Richards and Rabbi Matondo also found the target for City
It was a performance rich in both character and ability and should fill City with huge confidence as they head into the rest of the campaign.
New EDS manager Paul Harsley opted to field a youthful City side for his first Premier League 2 game since taking charge in the summer.
Goalkeeper Curtis Anderson was shielded by a back four of Cameron Humphreys, Eric Garcia, Joel Latibeaudiere and Tyreke Wilson. The midfield saw summer arrivals Claudio Gomes and Adrian Bernabe link up with Taylor Richards. Deployed upfront was Nabil Touaizi, with Benjamin Garre and Tom Dele-Bashiru providing width on either flank.
On a bright afternoon, City got off to the perfect start as they took an early seventh minute lead. Tom Dele-Bashiru’s fine through ball was met by striker Touaizi who finished with aplomb by dinking the ball past the Gunners keeper.
However, last season’s champions showed their mettle as they married physicality with skill and pace and after threatening the Blues goal, the Gunners drew level on 18 minutes.
Keeper Curtis Anderson’s clearance was intercepted by Xavier Amaechi and he, in turn, found Emile Smith-Rowe who levelled.
The goal gave the visitors confidence and as they kept the pressure up. Anderson twice made smart saves to deny Eddie Nkethiah and Amaechi before the visitors seized the lead with a two-goal salvo inside eight minutes.
On 36 minutes defender Krystian Bielek headed home from a corner before Amaechi then extended the lead three minutes from the break as he finished off Bola’s cross.
The game was then held up as one of the linesmen was stretchered off after falling ill before City hit back in stoppage with a wonderful goal.
The architect was Garre, who enjoyed a fine first 45 minutes, and Bernabe finished in style from close range.
The breathless nature of the action continued after the break and within four minutes of the restart City had drawn level, Touaizi smashing home from close range after City had created chaos in the Arsenal box..
Within three minutes the Gunners had restored their lead however, as the dangerous Smith-Lowe bagged his second goal of the afternoon with a crisp strike after swiveling on the edge of the box.
City refused to buckle though and their strength of character was rewarded on the hour when the Blues were awarded a penalty after Taylor Richards had been brought down, the midfielder converting from the spot to level affairs once more.
There was not let-up to the drama as Arsenal spurned their own spot-kick when Ntetiah skewed his 63rd minute effort wide after Amaechi had been brought down.
Harsley’s side then made the visitors pay for that miss by dramatically retaking the lead on 73 minutes with an exquisite goal.
Garre was again the provider running from deep before timing a pass to substitute Rabbi Matondo to perfection who found the target to make it 5-4.
Back roared Arsenal on 79 minutes as Stephy Mavididi unleashed a ferocious shot that the City defence could do nothing about.
But the young Blues ensured they had the last word on an amazing afternoon when Touaizi beat the Gunners defence and then calmly rounded the keeper before finishing to seal his hat-trick and a stunning City win.
What a way to start the season!
What it means
The dramatic victory over Arsenal marked the perfect start for Harsley who only took charge in July and the manner of the victory over last season’s PL2 champions should put the squad in great heart as they go forward for the rest of the season
Paul Harsley’s EDS squad travel to London a week tomorrow for our first away game of the season against West Ham United.
Kick-off next Sunday afternoon will be 1pm.